The comments were made by a West Yorkshire Police officer, who added that officers were now becoming “more savvy” in how they dealt with late night drunk and disorderly offenders in Leeds City Centre late at night.
It comes after a council report showed crime in Leeds City Centre rose by a fifth in the space of just two years, with offences such as assault, affray, robbery and sexual offences dramatically increasing, while theft and drink-related public order offences have been in decline.
During a meeting of the council’s licensing committee, Coun Jess Lennox (Lab, Crossgates and Whinmoor) said: “Drunk and disorderly offences have gone down in the last year, but public order offences have gone up by 56 percent.
“Is this to do with a different way in which crime is recorded?”
The police officer responded: “Officers are being a bit more savvy, whereas we haven’t got the cell space across Leeds, in all honesty, to take in people who are drunk and disorderly.
“Officers are dealing with it in different ways, exclusion powers, giving people directions to leave, some get their friends to put them into taxis.
“It’s just the cell space isn’t there to get that pre-emptive strike.
“We are doing our best, we are covered by CCTV, and police are working very diligently.”
Coun Neil Buckley (Con, Alwoodley) asked: “Are you saying you would like to lock up people but simply can’t? If you had more cell space would that lead to less crime?”
The officer responded: “I have seen first hand, we [used to have] 80 cells in Bridewell, 30 cells at Pudsey and 40 cells across Killingbeck and wherever else. Now you have 40 cells across Leeds, so in effect you haven’t got the space, so you have to be a lot more selective and tactical in your arrests.
“If you locked up 40 drunk and disorderlies, which I hope wouldn’t happen because Leeds isn’t that bad, but if you locked up 40 people on a really sunny day. Your burglars, your robbers, there would be nowhere – it would have to spread across the entire West Yorkshire police force – you would have no cell space in Leeds.
“I would rather take somebody in early rather than create a problem later on – that is how I’m designed as a police officer. If you have a quiet word in their shell-like, say you might come with us if you commit an offence, it might take the emphasis off the group. When the ringleader is gone, you might have a better night without someone forcing shots down you.
“It’s a catch 22, I would love to have more police cells, I would love to have more officers taking in drunk and disorderlies, but it’s just not there. The officers and staff aren’t there to make the arrests.
“We have to work with the confines of what we’ve got and the cell space.”
He also praised bars and door staff for being more vigilant with drunk and disorderly customers.
“Everyone’s pulling together , it’s a full partnership working – it’s not just the police anymore – we have to look at it realistically as possible.”